‘Standing Ovation’ begins Jamaica 55
Aptly the planned weeklong celebration of Jamaica's 55th anniversary of political Independence from Great Britain started with a mosaic concert of the arts, or as the organisers - Jamaica Cultural Development Commission (JCDC) - described it "a variety show featuring Jamaican excellence in the arts".
Excellence in the arts or Standing Ovation (the title of the show) saw a nice mix of performers: from the experienced to the up-and-coming, each delivering standing ovation performance.
The show held over the weekend at the Jamaica 55, Independence Village, at the Columbus Park complex, also captured significant moments on the journey to 55.
After the National Anthem, the Philharmonic Orchestra of Jamaica got things going with a European classic - Farandole, from L'Arlesiene, Suite No. 2, composed by Georges Bizet. Their conductor was Franklin Halliburton. Next the musicians captured the celebratory feeling with the Andrew Marshall-composed folk music, Run A Boat Symphony, Mvt 1 'Festivities'. Ana Strachan and a trio of vocalist from the University Singers continued to delight the large audience in the same classical vein.
The art form switched to the stage reading of Trevor Rhone's master piece, Two Can Play. The play highlights the period of uncertainty and mass exodus from Jamaica, to the United States of America. The well-presented extract, was read by original cast member, Grace McGhee and veteran actor Winston Bell. Eugene Williams directed.
Perhaps that is why LAcadco; A United Caribbean Dance Force, danced 'Breathe', and the Jamaica Youth Chorale segued with, 'One Ting Leads to Anneda'. That 'ting' was told by comedian Michael Abrahams, who had everyone laughing at the vices of a typical Jamaican. The Tony Wilson-choreographed Calabash, performed by members of the Company Dance Theatre, put a bright full stop on the first segment.
Jamaica's rich musical tradition continued in segment two with a strong performance by Karen Smith, who was followed by recent graduates of the Edna Manley College. Smith concentrated on jazz and blues such as Fever and Natural Woman, while the up-and-coming, gave beautiful arranged selections by Bob Marley, in addition to a few original pieces.
Unfortunately, some time during Smith's set, the sound quality deteriorated. This affected the anticipated high class performance from Fab 5, One Third and Romain Virgo. Fab 5's rendition of mainly popular songs, such as Sweet and Dandy and Land of My Birth, was easily recognised and gave the audience some dance and singalong moments.
That was not the case for One Third and Virgo, who included some relatively new songs in their set, that resulted in words being lost and vocals distorted.
Featured act Virgo was a show of professionalism. He arrived on stage after midnight with a smaller size audience to entertain. But that did not prevent him from giving a performance of excellence. And he must have felt encouraged when a female member of the audience made it known with an outburst.
Overall, Standing Ovation, was a positive start, it was spectacularly lit and emcees Norma Brown-Bell and Christopher 'Johnny' Daley were effective.